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First case of omicron variant identified in Onondaga County

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)
Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta and County Executive Ryan McMahon hold a briefing Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The omicron variant has been identified in Onondaga County, but officials are not surprised the highly infectious variant of the coronavirus has been identified locally.

It takes a while for labs to finish the genetic sequencing needed to determine what variant a coronavirus sample belongs to. In this case, Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse reported results this weekend of a case in late November that proved positive for omicron. Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said the individual who tested positive for omicron had mild symptoms, and has recovered. She expects more of these kinds of results.

“We should see more positives, but are we going to announce every one,” said Gupta. “Maybe a few of them, but then it’s going to be the normal sort of thinking that omicron is here."

Gupta says the most common COVID variant in the county continues to be the delta variant, but because omicron is twice as contagious, it’s unclear how that’s going to play out.

“Omicron is very highly transmissible, more than twice at least,” said Gupta. “So the concern becomes, would that create more cases especially with the holiday coming.”

The other wildcard element of omicron, is the effect of COVID vaccinations. The individual who tested positive had only the first of a two-shot vaccine regimen when they developed symptoms. So Gupta is anxious to see results of contact tracing.

“The interesting thing will be, those who were around the individual, if they were fully vaccinated, were they protected,” she said. “So I think it will be something of a case study for us locally.”

Omicron was first identified in central New York in Oneida County last week. COVID cases linked to the variant have been detected in at least 28 states, and while data is still limited, early signs show it may produce milder symptoms than other strains of the virus.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.